Women’s Tennis: Vanderbilt loses close match to No. 15 Ohio State in second round of NCAA Tournament

The No. 28 Commodores fell to the Buckeyes 4-3 after a dominant 4-0 win over Ball State in the first round.

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Truman McDaniel

Vanderbilt’s 2020-21 season came to a close after a second round loss to Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament. (Twitter/@mcdaniel_truman).

Jack Hollier, Staff Writer

This weekend, Vanderbilt traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. No. 28 Vanderbilt earned its 26th straight tournament berth after amassing a 14-9 regular season record.

In the 64-team draw, Vanderbilt was matched up against Ball State in the first round.

On Friday, Vanderbilt came out in full force. In doubles play, fifth-year senior Emma Kurtz and sophomore Marcella Cruz dominated their Ball State opponents, Jessica Braun and Mariya Polishchuk, 6-0. Then, fifth-year senior Christina Rosca and freshman Anessa Lee capitalized on Ball State’s unforced errors and clinched the doubles point with a 6-2 victory.

Not only did Rosca help win the important doubles point, but in doing so she also captured her one-hundredth doubles victory as a Commodore.

The Commodores carried their momentum into the singles matches, dropping just one set in total. At line one, Rosca put another point on the board in a decisive 6-1, 6-1 match against Ball State’s Emma Peeler. Rosca’s singles match was yet another milestone victory—the win gave her the fourth-most singles victories in team history.

Rosca’s doubles partner, Lee, added the third point to Vanderbilt’s total with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Polishchuk. Shortly after, Kurtz clinched the overall match with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Braun. Vanderbilt was dominant throughout, and had already taken a set in all three of the unfinished singles matches.

After winning in the first round on Friday, the Commodores faced No. 15 Ohio State in the second round on Saturday.

Once again, veterans Rosca and Kurtz led the way in doubles play. After sophomore Anna Ross and freshman Holly Staff lost their set at line one, Kurtz and Cruz took their set 6-3 with strong net play and service games. With the doubles point on the line, Rosca and Lee made a crucial service break and held their lead, taking their set 6-3 and putting Vanderbilt on the board.

At line one, Rosca took a commanding lead early. Rosca’s consistent and well-placed shots firmly gave her the upper hand over Ohio State’s Irina Cantos. After winning the first set 6-3, Rosca only looked more dominant. She won the second set 6-1, and she was the first off of the court. Not only that, but her opponent Cantos was ranked the No. 18 singles NCAA player in the nation. This win also moved her to third in program history in singles wins.

At line four, Ross got into some early trouble against the Buckeyes’ Lisa Hofbauer. Hofbauer was able to consistently break Ross’s strong serves, and Ross lost the first set 6-0. The second set was much more competitive. Ross and Hofbauer were neck and neck until Hofbauer eked out another service break to win the match 6-0, 7-5. Hofbauer’s win put Ohio State’s first point on the board.

Kurtz, at line two, played Ohio State’s Isabelle Boulais closely, but lost in straight sets 4-6, 4-6. They engaged in extended rallies and long points, but Boulais simply came out on top more often. Boulais’ victory tied the overall match score 2-2. Shortly after, Staff dropped her second set as well and lost 4-6, 3-6 to the Buckeyes’ Luna Dormet. With the Buckeyes one point away from victory, Vanderbilt needed the remaining two matches to move on.

With backs against the wall, the Commodores retaliated with another point from Lee at line three. After winning the first set 6-3, Lee held off Ohio State’s Kolie Allen in the second set and won 7-5—tying up the overall match score.

All eyes turned to Cruz at line five.

After losing the first set 3-6, she surged back into the match with a 7-5 win in the second set. As the other matches concluded, Cruz began her third set against the Buckeyes’ Lucia Marzal that would determine the overall match.

Unfortunately for the Commodores, Cruz could not seem to get the shots she needed . Both players fought hard, but Cruz fell quickly in the third set to 0-5. She then held off Marzal at match point to make the score 1-5, but in the next game, Marzal closed out the game, set and match for the Buckeyes.

A heartbreaking 3-4 loss to Ohio State ended Vanderbilt’s NCAA Tournament run as a team, but there is still tennis left to be played for some Commodores. Rosca, the No. 44 collegiate singles player in the country, has been selected for the NCAA Individual Championship tournament that will begin on May 23 in Orlando, Florida. Rosca certainly demonstrated her right to be in the individual tournament with statement wins in the first two rounds of the team tournament. 

Additionally, Ross and Staff, the No. 28 collegiate doubles pair, were selected as alternates for the doubles side of the individual tournament.

In a season unlike any other, the Commodores consistently demonstrated profound perseverance and tenacity. Vanderbilt will miss the veteran presence of fifth-years Rosca and Kurtz next year, but the younger players have certainly learned from their leadership over the years.